One of the most storied franchises in all of baseball, and the winner of the most World Series in National League history, the St. Louis Cardinals are an institution in the St. Louis area. While some games for the 2018 season will appear on broadcast networks, the majority of this year’s Cardinals baseball schedule will appear on cable TV on the regional network Fox Sports Midwest. This cable channel is available in the St. Louis market and some surrounding markets, and the best way to get Fox Sports Midwest in St. Louis is with the most widely available cable TV company in the area, Spectrum cable TV in St. Louis.
In homes in the St. Louis metro area, Fox Sports Midwest, sometimes listed as FS Midwest, appears on channels 37 and 824, with HD available on the higher channel for most programming, when you have Spectrum cable TV.
FS Midwest is also the home cable TV channel for St. Louis Blues hockey in the St. Louis area, with every regionally broadcast Blues game appearing on the network. When Blues and Cardinals games air at the same time, one team appears on FS Midwest and the other on the sister network, FS Midwest Plus, available at 75 and 826. The schedule for the 2018 season is available here.
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Despite both having relatively mediocre seasons up to the All-Star Break, the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals are the top Major League Baseball draws when it comes to regional sports network cable TV ratings. The Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers round out the top five, with the Oakland A’s at the bottom of the charts.
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The Royals’ league-high 12.23 average rating is particularly impressive, up 2 percent from midseason last year even though the defending World Series champions were only two games over .500 on the field at the break. Last year, the Royals ended their championship season with a 12.33 average regular-season rating on FS Kansas City, marking the league’s highest local average rating since 2002.
The Cardinals’ average rating is down 13 percent compared with midseason last year, but that 8.05 rating is still the league’s second-highest mark.
SportsBusiness Journal reviewed data from all 30 MLB teams. At the season’s midpoint, exactly half the league (15 teams) had seen a local ratings increase. Not surprisingly, the teams with the best win-loss records were the ones posting the biggest increases on TV.
It should also be noted that while the average ratings are high in St. Louis and Kansas City, they are not the leaders in total viewers, as they are mid-market teams. For example, more total viewers tune into Yankees games, but it is a smaller percentage of available viewers.
Live broadcast rights for sporting events on cable television are still a big moneymaker. Even though its nationwide profile is lower than it’s ever been, falling well behind NFL football and NBA basketball in the professional sports conversation in the United States, the former National Pastime is still big in the towns with popular teams. The St. Louis Cardinals are the latest organization to capitalize on the money to be made on live game broadcasts, garnering a deal worth $1 billion over 15 years for rights for 150 games a year to be broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest.
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The contract will start in 2018, and the Cardinals’ rights fees will jump to to $50-55 million in the first year of the deal from $30-35 million in 2017, the final year in the previous deal with FS Midwest.
Roughly 150 games will be aired on the network with the new pact and, more importantly, the Cardinals will also be receiving a minority stake in the network going forward. The contract seems very similar, though it’s a shorter term, to the last local contract signed by an MLB team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While it seems absurd the amount of money being spent on live rights for local and regional cable television broadcasts, the St. Louis area is loyal to its Cardinals, and live sports is really the only area on television that is DVR-proof. Likely, many cable customers would cut the cord if it were not for national sports broadcasts on channels like ESPN and local and regional ones on channels like Fox Sports Midwest.